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Luke Weaver, Carson Kelly Have Tall Task Ahead With D-backs

Luke Weaver (left) and Carson Kelly (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Fair or not, Luke Weaver and Carson Kelly will forever be known as the players the D-backs got back when they traded Paul Goldschmidt.

It’s a difficult spot to be in. Replacing a franchise icon and perennial MVP contender is never easy, either from an on-field production or a popularity standpoint.

Weaver, 25, and Kelly, 24, are making the best of it. Rather than see Goldschmidt’s pedigree as added pressure, the new D-backs are choosing to see it as a honor.

“It’s in the back of your mind, but it’s cool to be traded for a guy like that,” Weaver said earlier this month during a road series in San Diego. “When you look down later in your career and it’s all said and done and you think about that move and he’s doing great things and he’s on track for a great career, it’s a cool tidbit.”

Weaver, a righthanded starter, and Kelly, a catcher, were acquired with infield prospect Andy Young and a competitve balance round B draft pick from the Cardinals in exchange for Goldschmidt last December.

Goldschmidt, fresh off back-to-back top-10 MVP finishes, has already signed a five-year extension with the Cardinals and has seven home runs through 17 games with his new team.

Weaver has settled in as the D-backs' No. 4 starter. Kelly has so far received the bulk of the starts at catcher with Alex Avila on the injured list.

Both were Top 100 prospects coming up the minors and are at an age where their best years should be ahead of them. That said, there is considerable work ahead to make the trade eventually look favorable for the D-backs.

While it will be a difficult task, history tells us it’s not impossible. Teams rarely get equal value back when they trade an ace, but the picture is a bit rosier with elite position players.

Here is every trade in the wild-card era (1995-present) involving a position player who either won an MVP award within the previous three years of the trade OR who finished top-10 in MVP voting in two of the three seasons prior to the trade. Goldschmidt meets the latter criteria.

The trades involving Giancarlo Stanton (2017 NL MVP, 2017 trade) and Manny Machado (2015-16 top-10 MVP finishes, 2018 trade) and Josh Donaldson’s most recent trade (2015 AL MVP, 2018 trade) are not included because not enough time has passed for the returns to build careers yet.

Players are measured by their post-trade career wins above replacement (WAR), as estimated by Baseball-Reference. All WAR totals are through April 14.

May 14, 1998: Dodgers trade C Mike Piazza and 3B Todd Zeile to Marlins for OF Gary Sheffield, C Charles Johnson, OF Bobby Bonilla, OF Jim Eisenreich and RHP Manuel Barrios.

Marlins receivePost-Trade WARDodgers receivePost-Trade WAR
Mike Piazza27.6Gary Sheffield40.1
Todd Zeile7.8Charles Johnson13.7
Bobby Bonilla-4.8
Jim Eisenreich-1.0
Manuel Barrios0.0
Total: 35.4Total: 48.0

May 22, 1998: Marlins trade C Mike Piazza to Mets for OF Preston Wilson, LHP Ed Yarnall and LHP Geoff Goetz.

Mets receivePost-Trade WARMarlins receivePost-Trade WAR
Mike Piazza27.7Preston Wilson6.3
Ed Yarnall0.1
Geoff GoetzN/A
Total: 21.4Total: 6.4

Nov. 2, 1999: Rangers trade OF Juan Gonzalez, C Gregg Zaun and RHP Danny Patterson to Tigers to OF Gabe Kapler, OF Frank Catalanatto, RHP Francisco Cordero, C Bill Haselman, LHP Justin Thompson and LHP Alan Webb.

Tigers receivePost-Trade WARRangers receivePost-Trade WAR
Juan Gonzalez8.6Gabe Kapler7.0
Gregg Zaun12.8Frank Catalanatto13.6
Danny Patterson2.4Francisco Cordero16.4
Bill Haselman1.5
Justin Thompson-0.2
Alan WebbN/A
Total: 23.8Total: 38.3

Feb. 10, 2000: Mariners trade OF Ken Griffey Jr. to Reds to OF Mike Cameron, RHP Brett Tomko, 3B Antonio Perez and RHP Jake Meyer

Reds receivePost-Trade WARMariners receivePost-Trade WAR
Ken Griffey Jr.13.1Mike Cameron35.2
Brett Tomko6.4
Antonio Perez0.6
Jake MeyerN/A
Total: 13.1Total: 42.2

Dec. 11, 2001: Indians trade 2B Roberto Alomar, LHP Mike Bacsik and 1B/OF Danny Peoples to Mets for OF Matt Lawton, OF Alex Escobar, RHP Jerrod Riggan and players to be named later (1B/3B Earl Snyder and LHP Billy Traber)

Mets receivePost-Trade WARIndians receivePost-Trade WAR
Roberto Alomar-0.2Matt Lawton3.5
Mike Bacsik-0.1Alex Escobar2.0
Danny PeoplesN/AJerrod Riggan-0.6
Billy Traber-0.5
Earl Snyder-0.4
Total: -0.3Total: 4.0

Feb. 16, 2004: Rangers trade SS Alex Rodriguez to Yankees for 2B Alfonso Soriano and a player to be named later (2B Joaquin Arias)

Yankees receivePost-Trade WARRangers receivePost-Trade WAR
Alex Rodriguez54.2Alfonso Soriano18.6
Joaquin Arias1.0
Total: 54.2Total: 19.6 

Nov. 10, 2006: Yankees trade OF Gary Sheffield to Tigers for RHP Anthony Claggett, RHP Humberto Sanchez and RHP Kevin Whelan.

Tigers receivePost-Trade WARYankees receivePost-Trade WAR
Gary Sheffield3.1Anthony Claggett-0.3
Humberto Sanchez0
Kevin Whelan-0.1
Total: 3.1Total: -0.4

Dec. 4, 2007: Marlins trade 3B Miguel Cabrera and LHP Dontrelle Willis to Tigers for OF Cameron Maybin, LHP Andrew Miller, RHP Burke Badenhop, C Mike Rabelo, RHP Frankie De La Cruz and RHP Dallas Trahern

Tigers receivePost-Trade WARMarlins receivePost-Trade WAR
Miguel Cabrera51.3Cameron Maybin13.8
Dontrelle Willis-1.8Andrew Miller9.2
Burke Badenhop4.2
Mike Rabelo-0.2
Frankie De La Cruz-0.7
Dallas TrahernN/A
Total: 43.8Total: 26.3

Nov. 20, 2013: Tigers trade 1B Prince Fielder and cash to Rangers for 2B Ian Kinsler

Rangers receivePost-Trade WARTigers receivePost-Trade WAR
Prince Fielder0.2Ian Kinsler22.1
Total: 0.2Total: 22.1

Nov. 28, 2014: Athletics trade 3B Josh Donaldson to Blue Jays for 3B Brett Lawrie, SS/2B Franklin Barreto, RHP Kendall Graveman and LHP Sean Nolin

Blue Jays receivePost-Trade WARAthletics receivePost-Trade WAR
Josh Donaldson22.8Brett Lawrie3.3
Franklin Barreto-0.3
Kendall Graveman5.4
Sean Nolin-0.3
Total: 22.8Total: 8.1

In five of the 10 instances an MVP contender was traded, the team trading the player away came out on the winning end of the deal from a WAR perspective. There are caveats, however.

Most of those successes came in 2001 or earlier. In four of the last five deals involving such players, the team trading away the MVP contender came out on the losing end. The only success among those deals is the Tigers trading Prince Fielder to the Rangers in 2013 for Ian Kinsler, who was a fellow multiple-time All-Star in his 30s. Fielder's career was also cut short by injuries after the trade.

It's also incumbent on the team to keep the top players they receive in return, something not all of them did.

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From a pure, on-the-field production standpoint, getting an equal or better return back for an MVP contender is a 50-50 proposition based on the history of such trades in the wild-card era.

For the D-backs to join the positive outcome group, Weaver and Kelly are going to have to be a big part of it.

The opportunity is there. Weaver bounced between the rotation, the bullpen and Triple-A with St. Louis while Kelly was blocked by Yadier Molina behind the plate and spent the last three seasons going up and down between Triple-A and the majors. Now in Arizona, the path is clear for both of them to have consistent roles in the majors.

"It kind of wears on you a little bit because you get up to the big leagues and you’re like, 'I want to be here' and then you go down," Kelly said. "That’s part of it, that’s part of the journey and I’m ready for my opportunity now to go out and play. This is a great team and a great environment to be a part of."

Weaver and Kelly are cognizant they will be tied to Goldschmidt the rest of their careers. They also know trying to replicate his production would be a Herculean task and can't be their individual focus.

For both of them, the goal is just to be the best players they can be.

"I guess more than anything it's is just coming in here and being myself and contributing in a way that he did," Weaver said, "but paving my own path."

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